“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.” – Margaret Wheatley
Reflections are essential to use at every step of life – to look within and to pave a clear way forward. In this article, I am going to expand on the importance of reflection in coaching, not just to reflect on the progress of the client, but also for the coach to reflect on their own performance as a coach.
Reflecting on the progress of your client
To make the most out of your coaching journey with your client, reflecting immediately after the end of the session and capturing it is vital.
Typically, a coach is contracted to work with a client for 6-8 sessions. After the first session or two, the client and coach come to a deeper and objective understanding of the goals of the client and what is important to them.
From then on, there are essentially two journeys the client makes – the first is the external journey to achieve their goals. And the second is the journey to transform or change themselves from within.
The external journey is pretty much quantifiable – you can give your client inputs on what they’ve done well and where they can improve. But what’s even more important is the inner transformation – essentially what is helping your client make progress and what is holding them back. This helps the client reflect about themselves from within as well as take note of elements in their environment.
Upon finishing a few sessions with your clients, if you’ve been truly listening and paying attention, you will start to become aware of the client and their patterns. For instance, when they end up over-committing and stretching themselves and then feel guilty when they’re not able to achieve what they set out to do. You will notice a pattern if this is recurring.
If you’ve been reflecting on your client’s progress and patterns, you can hold up the mirror and make them aware of the same, which is usually a blind spot for clients who don’t do much reflection of their own.
Connect the Dots
Reflections also help in connecting the dots. Something that was discussed in session 1 made them very positive and something in session 2 made them feel good as well – so you can check with them to see if there is perhaps a theme that they could make use of.
Helping clients uncover hidden roadblocks, recurring patterns of thought (both positive & negative), insights into behaviours, and showing the mirror – are all the essence of your work as a coach.
Before a coaching session, you can pick up these reflections from your notes and browse through all of them and you’ll once again be able to see the patterns (that is helping or holding them back) and when you go into the coaching session, you can then bring them to the client’s notice.
Hold the Client Accountable
You need to hold your client accountable to their progress. You can see patterns and then show them to the client – this is because you’ve taken the trouble to capture the reflections post sessions.
Aside from reflections, you want to capture other insights from the session as well, plus the points for the session, i.e., what you want to cover. If the client has stakeholders, you can see how those reflections and insights impacts them as well. This is where the importance of reflection stands out even more.
As a coach you can help a client figure what they feel about their goals rather than what they think about their goals. You can come back in check in on what the client had said was important/not important to them at the beginning of the coaching journey and where are you now regarding that.
In essence, by using reflection in coaching, you can
- Capture how the client is feeling about a particular goal in a session
- See what positive patterns are enabling progress
- Check what negative patterns are holding them back
Reflecting on your own performance as a coach
To reflect on your own performance as a coach, you can refer to coaching competencies for your level.
So, the best thing to do before a coaching session is to set a learning goal for yourself. For instance, today I am going to observe myself as a coach and see how I am doing in my listening skills.
You can review the competency on the ICF or EMCC website, whichever is relevant to your certification. And when in the actual session, keep a meta-awareness about your own ability to listen and be present.
At the end of the session as you’re capturing your client’s progress in the sessions, you can also come back and capture your own performance as a coach.
For instance, your own reflection in coaching could be as follows: ‘I seem to zone out on what the client is saying while capturing notes’ or ‘I’m too focused on asking my questions and not paying enough attention to what the client is saying’
Doing this regularly will make you aware of your own progress as a coach.
With Simply.Coach, you can make use of private journals to capture reflections in coaching about your client as well as yourself – and even encourage your clients to do the same for self-reflection.
If you’re disciplined and capture notes after each session, then the platform is able to give you a one-stop chronological listing of all your reflections for each client – essentially a record of the journey and progress so far.
What’s more, when you receive an email reminder about the next session, it will come with the earlier session’s reflections attached!
And on the off chance that you capture something on a piece of paper, you can always upload it and have it stored with your reflections.
It’s a great way to digitize and centralize a notoriously disorganized part of the client journey. To take the Private Journal feature for a spin, you can sign up for a free 14-day trial right here!